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Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS)

By: Tabitha Mishra

What Does Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) Mean?

The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) is a rating system for chemical hazards developed by the American Coatings Association (ACA). It uses colors, numbers, and letters to identify and provide information about various hazards.

HMIS is a registered mark owned by National Paint Coatings Association (NPCA), now known as ACA. It is similar to the NFPA diamond RTK (Right to Know) label, which communicate the same information as HMIS labels.

Safeopedia Explains Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS)

The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) helps companies stay in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).

The system's labeling practices allows workers handling chemicals to identify the relevant hazards at a glance while also providing useful information, such as the risk severity associated with the product.

How HMIS Works

The HMIS uses color codes for identify different types of hazards, and numbers to indicate the severity of the hazard. Letters are used to indicate the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used when handling the chemical, except for emergencies.

Employers can use the NFPA and HMIS as part of their in-house labeling system as long as the labels convey the same hazard information as the Global Harmonization System (GHS).

The HMIS label can be a color bar or shaped like a diamond and can be pasted where needed. The labels can either be printed on-site or purchased. HMIS signs can be commonly seen on the back of trucks transporting hazardous material.

Color Coding for HMIS

The following color codes are used to indicate various hazards:

  • Blue Bar: Indicates a health-related hazard to people in the area. A star is incldued if the product poses a chronic health hazard.
  • Red Bar: Indicates that the product is flammable.
  • Orange Bar (Previously Yellow): Indicates physical hazards or reactivity.
  • White Bar: Indicates the use of PPE.

The HMIS Number Rating

The numbers in the color codes indicate minimal to severe hazards. For complete information, refer to the HMIS guidelines.

  • 0: Minimal hazard
  • 1: Slight hazard
  • 2: Moderate hazard
  • 3: Serious hazard
  • 4: Severe hazard

The HMIS Letter Rating

For the white color code, a letter is used to indicate the type of PPE required when working with or handling the chemical:

  • A: Safety glasses
  • B: Safety glasses and gloves
  • C: Safety glasses, gloves, and an apron
  • D: Face shield, gloves, and an apron
  • E: Safety glasses, gloves, and a dust respirator
  • F: Safety glasses, gloves, apron, and a dust respirator
  • G: Safety glasses and a vapor respirator
  • H: Splash goggles, gloves, apron, and a vapor respirator
  • I: Safety glasses, gloves, and a dust/vapor respirator
  • J: Splash goggles, gloves, apron, and a dust/vapor respirator
  • K: Hood or mask, gloves, full suit, and boots
  • L: Custom PPE (specified by the employer)
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